Marcel van Overbeek: About four years ago I visited the London Hifi
show with my friend and audio-buddy Marc. One of the most amazing demo’s we
had was the one from Loricraft Audio U.K by Terry O’Sullivan. He demonstrated
the gorgeous Loricraft record-cleaning-machine … and what a great gig! This
man’s performance was noticed by many people passing by, all wanted to get a
glimpse of what was going on! But the price of that machine was too high for my
budget, so one year later I decided to buy a Moth RCM record-cleaner. How much I
regret this, will be explained in the following lines.
Clean is clean, you might think. Wrong! With the PRC-3 you can get your records cleaner than you would ever expect …. Of course part of the cleaning is in the fluid and the scrubbing, but what to do with the dirt that comes loose? Looking at the PRC-3 the first time, you might think it is a record-player. It has a platter, arm, and also several "buttons" on top of the player. It looks impressive and (on second sight) for a record-player maybe a touch too big. It works very simple, but several aspects need to be explained.
Basically the story is: Put a dirty record on the platter. Spray some cleaning fluid on top of it and brush it with the supplied brush so that the fluid is evenly spread all over the grooves. Then turn on the pump and put the arm on the record near the label. Than turn on the the arm-mechanism and let it suck dry from the inner-side of the record to the outer-side and ….ready you are!
In this review I do not want to go too deep into explaining how the PRC-3 works. I have found some very detailed manuals and descriptions on the internet. On http://www.smartdev.com/loricraft.html you will find an excellent manual of the PRC-3 and some links to reviews and pictures. This company is the U.S. distributor for Loricraft and they took some real effort to get all this done! So perhaps it’s wise to check out the web link and read the manual first.
Assembling the PRC-3 was child’s play because the only thing that needs to be adjusted (the arm’s down force) was factory set. The first LP I treated was a very old one, but still interesting enough to listen to. It was Barbra Streisand’s "One voice" live album, bought on a flee-market for 1 Euro. Listening to it was almost impossible, because the record was very dirty and also a little scratched on the surface. In this condition it made me think twice before playing it: Horrible! However, I knew the recording itself very well. Several years ago I bought the CD on a record-sales-market for a few Guilders and listened to it a couple of times. Have to be honest … It was recommended to me by some "audiophile" but it never gave me the chills. It is a highly informative recording with lots of ambience and highlighted detail, but to my humble opinion not the most spectacular kind of music. Not thrilling enough for my tastes. The first thing I did to the LP, was brushing off the dust with my long-time-favorite dry brush (Watts Parastat mk4) and then soaking the LP’s surface with record- cleaning-fluid (I use Last products, but also found some great results using the AH! Quality Service record cleaner. Please feel free to use your own favorite cleaningfluid) and scrub it about 10 rounds spinning with the supplied cleaning-brush. This is tricky though! The fluid needs to stay on the recordsurface and not on the machine, so a little practicing is needed. After stopping the platter I let the fluid work its way a couple of minutes so it can get deep down into the grooves. Then I put the arm in position and turn on the platter …. There it goes! It gave me so much pleasure to see where the dirt was going … The same procedure for the B side, but not after cleaning the platters surface first, because I didn’t want the dirt from the flip-side to get on my just cleaned A side! But the B side was still showing fingers after the first cleaning, so I decided to clean it again. I remember having a phone-call with my colleague Ferry, who advised me to double clean very dirty records in a very specific way. The first cleaning using the vacuum-suction-arm the "traditional record playing way", which means that one puts the arm on the "starting" point of the record. The second cleaning using "the Loricraft recommended way", which means that the arm is starting from the "outergroove" on the "wrong" side of the spindle. Can you still follow me? It is hard to explain this without pictures, but once you have seen the working of the PRC-3 you’ll catch my drift. This procedure cleans the groove from both ways. Therefore way more intens than a one-way-cleaning, which normally is enough to clean the (not so dirty) record. Looking at "One voice" was like looking in a mirror! Not even heard one second of the record, but already guessing what the PRC-3 had done to it, gave me a second stage of joy. Putting the record on the Michell Orbe for a spin, the real fun part starts as the Kiseki touches the recordsurface … I had to make sure I had switched on my Audia Flight One amplifier because I didn’t hear the usual noise, playing the lead-in-groove. Of course the occasional tick ‘n plop (due to small damage) was still audible, but the groove itself was absolutely silent! And so the music started … Wow! Here comes the part I totally disagree with Mr. Art Dudley! Where he claims to hear no sonic differences but only a very silent and clean sounding record, I hear massive gain in all frequency extremes. Especially in the upper-range. The sound also gains in terms of transparency and freedom. The bass is very, very clean and articulate. What I hear now is completely different from what I heard when playing "dirty". To make a comparison I had to find the CD version and take it from the attic. Playing the CD version proved that this recording was not one of my favourites! But the LP version (100% equal in recording technology and mastering) was so much more involving and musical. I simply could not believe my ears. The soundstage as big as seen on the pictures from the innersleeve and the audience-appearance as real as possible … Incredible and almost too good to be true.
So on to the next experiment! A couple of years ago I bought Patricia Barber’s Café blue on vinyl. I loved the CD version, so when the lp came out, I had to have it. Ordered it "online", but when I played it the first time, it kind of disappointed me. The recording-quality was very good (it sounded better than the CD, but you analogo’s already knew, didn’t you?) but the surface was very noisy and not of constant quality. Washed it several times with my Moth RCM and treated it with Last Record Preservative, but it never totally satisfied me. So I cleaned it the "double-way", but didn’t see any differences looking at it. Running downstairs the second time that night (I installed the PRC-3 in the guestroom upstairs) and tossed it on the Orbe to have a listen. Ha! I knew it! The noise level dropped significantly and for the first time this LP made me realise why it was so expensive anyway. What a great recording. One of these days I am going to compare it to the new Mobile Fidelity SACD version. I like to quote one of my colleagues (Rob Wilms) here: "The PRC-3 isn’t only a record- cleaning- machine, but a record-sound- enhancer!" He was so enthusiastic, that he called our boss Herman in the middle of the night, to tell him how surprised he was! (Rob is using a VPI right now (after some disappointing experiences with a Nitty Gritty cleaning machine), but I am sure he is considering purchasing a PRC-3.
In fact, my experiences tell me also that this machine is a record-sound- enhancer. Many of my cherished albums proved to be so much better than I initially thought they were … Dave Brubeck’s Take 5, for example, always was one of my "records to die for". When I found it, I thought it was worn out. It must have been played at least a thousand times, but it still was good enough to play. Using the Last record preservative made it much more enjoyable and quiet and it showed great values, preferable above the CD reissue. But after a PRC-3 treatment it made me shake my head with disbelieve. Think of it to be "audiophile remastered and reissued" compared to the "untreated" way! No, perhaps the difference is even bigger … Here is where I fall short of superlatives and cannot come up with words to describe my experience.
The PRC-3 stayed at my place for two weeks, and I washed about 40 records. I
could have cleaned more, but I had to listen to every record (before and after).
It left me wondering how much music and detail I missed using the wrong
The Moth RCM is like most of them; using a suction "pipe"which touches the recordsurface with a microfibre cleaning pad. While touching the recordsurface with big pressure, not only the dirt spreads from place to place (or from record to record), but it also builds up static electricity causing noise and ticks during play. And this is exactly why there is a big difference with the Loricraft PRC-3. The suction-system is not touching the record. A thin nylon thread keeps a save distance, and for whatever reason, the record is not going to be "charged" during cleaning. The cleaning fluid I use is also a permanent "anti-static treatment" but the combination of both works wonders! After the LP has been cleaned I give it a new innersleeve (Nagaoka No. 102) to protect it, and to keep it away from the dirty original innersleeve.
By the way: do you know how much noise a professional Nilfisk vacuumcleaner makes? Listen to a cleaning process on a Moth RCM cleaningmachine! I always use earprotection because it is so loud and unbearable. The PRC-3 is one of the quietest cleaningmachines out there! It is an absolute pleasure to use and the funny yellow earplugs can be used for Formula One Grand Prix visits again!
I remember several years ago, when I decided to buy a record-cleaning-machine. I always relied on my trusty Knosti Disco Antistat, but there had to be a better way of cleaning vinyl. So I searched the market, and since the Loricraft was not an option (due to its price at that time) I figured: "All of them must be working alike", "Let’s go for the cheapest!" This I regret now … I should have waited for the PRC-3! The Moth is working just fine (maybe less or even to likely priced cleaners), but I think the Loricraft cleans really, really much better. And as a bonus (on top of the clean records) you get a record-sound-enhancing device!
Maybe there is some magic inside? Why not trying a high-end powercord, and three Shun Mook Mpingo discs on top to see the results improve even more? Ofcourse that is a rather stupid thought, although one never knows what to expect…
The Loricraft PRC-3 record-cleaning-machine is on permanent demo in our shops. We kindly invite you to bring one (and I mean one!) of your favourite LP’s, and we will "treat" it for you … Have a careful listen and then be amazed, like we are!